Bandar Seri Begawan The capital city is the largest urban centre of this small country, and also home to a third of the overall population. It's relatively compact, with many of the tourist attractions within walking distance of one another. Spots worth checking out are The Royal Regalia Museum, Ash Shaliheen Mosque, and the newly opened BIBD Frame Brunei. Aside from that, walk the streets, as you'll be surprised what you come across.
Kampong Ayer Water Village
For a glimpse into "Old Brunei" you can visit Kampong Ayer, which is a traditional settlement on the Brunei River, directly facing the capital. Kampong consists of traditional houses, schools, and mosques, which are all built on stilts above the river surface. It really is a fascinating place to walk around, with an impressive size of 10 square kilometres and a population around 10,000. Kampong is easy to reach, with plenty of small speed boats back and forth from Bandar. This is perhaps the best spot to photograph locals (with their permission of course).
Empire Brunei 7 Star Hotel
Okay, so officially, there's no seven star rating system for any hotel, despite what you'll read online about the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. However, Brunei also gave themselves the self-title of having a seven star hotel, which is Empire Hotel. You don't have to be an overnight guest to take a peek inside, so add this place to your list and see what all the fuss is about. There's a coffee and cake area in the atrium that isn't as expensive as you'd expect. You can also exit the hotel from the rear, where there's a beautiful private beach and boardwalk.
Ulu Temburong National Park
The highlight of my time in Brunei was definitely a day trip to Ulu Temburong, which is the first National Park to be established in the country and protected since 1991. Firstly, this is a very easy full day/half day trip from BSB with plenty of boats leaving the jetty opposite Kampong Ayer, as well as many tourism companies if you don't want to go solo. There's a short boat ride en route to Temburong NP where you'll see different species of birds, some crocodiles, and the Jong Batu rock outcrop. The absolute highlight is the observation bridge that spans across the roof of the rainforest offering exceptional views. Trust me, it's worth all those steps!
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
The countries national landmark is the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, which is located in the capital. The mosque is named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei and is surrounded by an artificial lake, which is the perfect prop for those reflection photo shots! Both the interior and exterior are very lavish with plenty of Italian marble, as well as chandeliers crafted in England. Add in plenty of gold leaf on the domes and interior ceilings, and you've got one impressive mosque.
For vibrant colours and an an opportunity to integrate with the locals, I'd recommend a visit to Kianggeh Market. It's a bustling open-air market with plenty of local eateries. The stall owners are a mix between local Bruneian and Malaysia, due to the close proximity to the border. Unlike other markets around the world, there's no issues with taking photos. If you're traveling on a budget, this is also a great place to do your shopping as there's endless fruit and veg options.
If you're on a layover and short on time, I'd hop onto a local boat for a quick tour up and down the Brunei River. Along the way, you'll pass plenty of mosques and popular landmarks, as well as the iconic Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Bridge (bit of a mouthful, I know). The bridge opened in 2017 and is the second-longest single-pylon cable-stayed bridge in the world. The bridge is best appreciated at night!
I went budget in this oil rich state, so chose to stay at The Capital Residence Suites solely due to the central location in the heart of the capital. Facilities were clean and basic, there's WiFi throughout, and a decent breakfast. There's a free airport shuttle available for all guests, which is a nice cost saver. Overall, the good reviews are accurate and there's plenty within walking distance.
I wouldn't say there's a huge volume of restaurants to choose from, but you definitely won't go hungry. My top pick is Excapade, which is a Japanese restaurant in BSB, and I can honestly say that the sushi far exceeded what I was expecting! Relatively inexpensive, but the quality was top class. Excapade has expanded during their 20 years in Brunei, with the flagship being on Regent Square. All of their products are air-flown from Norway and Japan, which explains the quality. As you'll see from the pic, the salmon sashimi was a fave of mine!
I don't think it's essential to have a guide during your trip to Brunei. It's an easy country to navigate, especially as majority of the tourist attractions are within the capital. For ease, I would use a local tourist agency for the excursion to Ulu Temburong National Park. There's plenty of reputable companies in the Tourist Information Center. If you specifically want a guide for the city, there's plenty here on ToursByLocals.